Monday, August 31, 2009

August 31, 2009

"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Luke 19:10

I am back from vacation!

For the sake of accountability I want you to know that even though I took time off from writing my daily posts, I did not take time off from my Bible reading. I hope you didn't either!
During September I am going to be studying Luke 15. The series is entitled "LOST". I hope to capture the sense of urgency that God has for lost people.
Have you ever been lost? Can you remember the fear and the desparation that you felt when you realized you were lost?
When my kids were young I took them to Six Flags amusement park near Chicago. We had an amazing time. They found their delight in shaming me into getting on some rides I had no business going on.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and told them that henceforth they were riding the roller coasters without me. I think they could see the fear in my eyes and understood I was serious. So, when the urge hit them to get on the American Eagle, the world's largest wooden coaster, I told them I would be waiting for them at this exact spot. I made them promise to stay together and keep track of their little brother.
Some forty-five minutes later, I saw my oldest son, Matt and his sister, Bradi emerge excitedly from the milling mass of humanity. They ran up to me and started to tell me how much fun the American Eagle was. But I was more interested in knowing where their little bother was.
"Where's Marcus?" I asked.
They looked behind them. They looked at each other. Then they looked at me.
"We don't know. He WAS right behind us!"
The terrible realization hit us - Marcus was lost, knee-high, somewhere in that ocean of strangers. Was he safe? What if someone had grabbed him? He must be terrified.
We tried not to panic. Not wanting to risk being separated from those two, I made them promise to stay right where they were and I waded into the crowd. Desparately I began the frantic search to locate my lost son.
I looked, and I looked, and I looked but to no avail. I concentrated my search in a general area where I thought he would be. No luck.
After combing that area several times and not finding him. I was trying not to panic. I decided that I had better go back and check on the other two and make sure they were alright. When I got there, I discover they were fine. Matt, Bradi AND Marcus were waiting impatiently for me to return. While I was desparately searching for him, he had ambled calmly back to them.
My panic turned to joy! My son who was lost was now safe! We were all together again!
I think in that brief moment I experienced what God feels when one who was lost in sin, repents and comes to faith in Christ. What relief! What rejoicing! How sweet the celebration!
Heaven is a happy place. There is continual joy and bliss. But only one thing sets off a celebration in Heaven - when a sinner repents!
For those few tortured minutes I was obsessed with finding my lost son. It was the only thing that mattered to me at that time.
That is how God must feel all the time. I had just one lost child, He has billions! For that reason alone He sent His only true Son "to seek and save those who are lost".
As one who has been found and as one who knows the relief of finding, I want to live with the urgency for lost people that the Father had for me and the urgency I had that day at Six Flags.
How about you?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

August 22, 2009

This morning I have to confess to a long-term, ongoing, passionate relationship with the local church. I believe that healthy local churches are the hope of the world. Some of my greatest joys have happened through the local church and many of my deepest hurts have happened in the local church. I have given my adult life to serve it. In fact, today is the first day of my 38th year of serving as a local church pastor.

Disappointment is one of those emotions we would rather not deal with. And no matter how many times we are disappointed it never gets easier.

If you hang around life very long, you will get disappointed. The church is no exception. In fact, the church can be more disappointing because you tend to have higher hopes and expectations for people.

The Local Church is the Body of Christ! But the problem is it is made up of people – and led by people – and people get it wrong sometimes. People disappoint you and let you down. Sometimes you disappoint yourself. Disappointment is a fact of life in the church so we need to learn how to go through it AND grow through it.

Obviously, we have had a disappointment this week in the church. I have been disappointed. I’m sure I have been a disappointment. So, as a pastor and a teacher of the Word I turned to it for some personal help on how to deal with disappointment and I would like to share what I found. Can I do that?

I am going to share some thoughts from Luke 24:13-32.

I think the key verse in that section is verse 21 – “but we had hoped He was the one who would redeem Israel…..”

Can you hear the disappointment in that statement? I can. And it is a revealing insight into the nature of disappointment. DISAPPOINTMENT IS WHERE HOPE COLLIDES WITH REALITY!

That can actually be a healthy time because it can help us get a better grip on hope and a new understanding of what is real.

Let me show you how these guys dealt with disappointment.


"Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem."

When you get disappointed it is helpful to get some distance from the situation and retreat to a safe place. These guys had been in Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus was crucified. They were now bewildered believers trying to sort out everything that had happened. So, they headed home.

When you are confused and disappointed and not sure what to think or do, head back to what you DO know. Surround yourself with those you trust. Don’t project the disappointment you have with one person onto everyone.

Probably THE best thing you could have done today was to come here. There is safety here. There is familiarity here. There is love here and healing here.


"They were talking with each other about everything that had happened."

When you are feeling the sting of disappointment the best thing you can do is talk with the right person in order to sort out your emotions. The worst think you can do is talk to the wrong people.

As this was developing I was thankful to have the friendship and wisdom of some of our key leaders, and my very wise and capable wife. Talking with them was a life-saver for me!

I want to commend our leaders for how they have handled this situation this week. When Tim resigned and it became apparent that he wasn’t going to change his mind, I accepted his resignation and informed the Leadership Team and a few other key people who needed to know. Out of love for Tim and the church they managed that information properly. They kept to themselves. They didn’t gossip. They prayed, they wept, and they supported me.

That allowed us to have this talk this morning in this setting.

I will be happy to talk to any of you who need more information.


"As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him."

Because these men were on the right path talking about the right stuff, they were at a place where Jesus could join them! When Jesus shows up, things get better!

But, if we don’t handle disappointment properly and if we cop an attitude and get overcome by emotion and talk to the wrong people it makes it hard for Jesus to show up.

I am so thankful that our core leaders didn’t do that so that God can show up here this morning.

Norma Jean Mortenson was a young girl who spent much of her childhood in foster homes. She was very familiar with disappointment. When she was 8 years old, she was physically abused and given a nickel not to tell anyone.

Went Norma Jean tried to tell her foster mother about the man who had abused her she was spanked and told never to tell anyone because he was the guy who paid their rent.

She grew into a very pretty girl and then a beautiful young woman. People began to take notice, especially men. They would whistle at her and flirt with her. While she liked the attention, she wished they would get to know her as a person and like for who she really was.

Eventually she was discovered and moved to Hollywood. She was given the name Marilyn Monroe with the promise that she would be turned into an American sex symbol. It worked and she became an overnight success. But she still longed to be loved and recognized as Norma Jean, the person that she was.

She went through three marriages pleading for someone to love her as a person and not as a star or an object. At the age of 35, on a Saturday night, Marilyn Monroe took her own life. Her maid found her the next morning on her bed with the telephone hanging off the receiver.

One of her biographers wrote that the dangling telephone was a symbol of Norma Jean’s life. She died because she never got through to anyone who understood.

How sad to move from disappointment to disappointment and never find Jesus.

In the midst of your disappointment, look for Jesus, He will be there and He will NEVER disappoint you!


"He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?" They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?" "What things?" he asked.
"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see." He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

Maybe the greatest blessing of walking with Jesus is getting to talk with Jesus – and more importantly listen.

The weird thing about this whole dynamic is that we see these guys talking TO Jesus about their disappointment ABOUT Jesus. As it turns out He was would they thought He was.


That can be a bad thing. Sometimes disappointment can turn into disillusionment. Has anyone ever been disillusioned?

When any of us invest too much hope in any person or leader, we are bound for disappointment.

If I haven’t already, I will disappoint you.

This is where the story gets good. As they shared their disappointment about Jesus to Jesus and as they walked with Him and talked with Him and learned from Him their perspective changed! Their hope returned. They realized that they had actually UNDER estimated Who Jesus was!

Jesus was more than they hoped! He was more real than they had imagined!

How many things in life turn out to be better than you expect? It is a short list – and Jesus is at the top of it!

I know there are a lot of disappointed people here this morning. I am one of them. Someone we invested our hopes in has disappointed us. That’s life! It happens! It will happen again!

That is why we need to learn to deal with disappointment:



Let’s deal with this disappointment. Let’s stay united and keep on loving each other. Let’s reach lost people. Let’s let God grow a great church.

Let’s be like the stubborn old mule:

A farmer owned an old mule. He was kind of sway backed and not much good for anything. But he WAS stubborn. Since the old mule didn’t see very well any more he fell into the farmer’s well. The farmer heard the awful racket from the mule’s braying and came to see where he was. When he found the old fella down in the well, he decided it wasn’t worth the time, money or effort to hoist him out and the well was dry, so he decided just to order a load of dirt and fill in the well and bury the mule. He called His neighbors together and told them what happened and what he was planning and enlisted their help haul dirt to bury the mule. But the only trouble was they underestimated how stubborn that mule was.

Well, they shoveled in the first load of dirt and it hit him on the back her reacted out of his stubbornness and thought, “SHAKE IT OFF AND STEP UP!” He did. And he did it with the second load, and the third load, and the fourth load, and all the loads until the well had been filled to the top and he walked away from the well! Once on top, he “SHOOK IT OFF AND STEPPED UP!”

Friday, August 21, 2009

August 21, 2009

Pain needs to be processed before it can become profitable. Job gives us some insight on how that happens:

"After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: "May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, 'A boy is born!' That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine upon it. May darkness and deep shadow claim it once more; may a cloud settle over it; may blackness overwhelm its light. That night—may thick darkness seize it; may it not be included among the days of the year nor be entered in any of the months. May that night be barren; may no shout of joy be heard in it. May those who curse days curse that day, those who are ready to rouse Leviathan. May its morning stars become dark; may it wait for daylight in vain and not see the first rays of dawn, for it did not shut the doors of the womb on me to hide trouble from my eyes. "Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed? For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest with kings and counselors of the earth, who built for themselves places now lying in ruins, with rulers who had gold, who filled their houses with silver. Or why was I not hidden in the ground like a stillborn child, like an infant who never saw the light of day? There the wicked cease from turmoil, and there the weary are at rest. Captives also enjoy their ease; they no longer hear the slave driver's shout. The small and the great are there, and the slave is freed from his master. "Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure, who are filled with gladness and rejoice when they reach the grave? Why is life given to a man whose way is hidden, whom God has hedged in? For sighing comes to me instead of food; my groans pour out like water. What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil." Job 3

Ouch! That is painful just to read! It sounds too familiar for most of you.

But as I meditated on this I realized three things Job did in the midst of suffering that allowed God to tranform Job's pain into profit.

First, Job approached pain honestly. He experienced it. He felt it. He didn't deny it. He didn't spiritualize it. God has programmed in us a marvelous coping and recovery system called "grief". Grief moves through steps that ultimately bring us out of suffering. But if we don't confront our pain with honesty we short-circuit the process. Job did not do that.

Second, Job faced suffering with humility. "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Job did not fall victim to "victimology". Listen to this statement, "Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him." "He didn't say, "Why me?" He thought, "Why not me?"

Finally, He faced suffering hopefully. His "saintly wife said" suggested, "Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die." Job chose to hope in what he knew about the goodness of God. He refused to let pain have the final answer in this situation. That is what integrity is all about, believing what you believe even when it seems unbelievable.
Are you plagued by pain? Are you surrounded by suffering? Face it with honesty, humility and hope! God will bring you through triumphantly as He did Job.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 20, 2009

"God's Spirit makes us sure that we are His children. His Spirit let's us know that together with Christ we will be given what God has promised. We will also share in the glory of Christ if we have suffered with us. I am sure that what we are suffering now cannot compare with the glory that will be shown to us." Romans 8:16-18

During my first two years of high school I went to a tiny school in a rural town. We had 97 kids ninth grade through 12th grade, the smallest school in the county. Therefore, in the all important world of high school basketball, we were at a disadvantage by virtue of our smaller pool of available guys to choose from. There were many seasons that the Claypool Knights served as the doormats of the county. When people looked at their schedule and saw us they counted and automatic "w".

Thankfully, something changed. A new coach came to town with a new philosophy. He was a onditioning freak. His idea was that we have no control over how many players we have to choose from but we can control how good of condition we are in. If we can be in better condition than the team we are playing then about the time they are wearing down we can be winding up. So, his practices were grueling. In order to even go out for basketball you had to run cross country. And then to make the team you had to make the team you had to survive the first week of extreme conditioning. They call them "suicides" for a reason. We endured the pain of those practices for the promise of something we had little experience with - winning. Many times we would wonder if all the burning lungs, the cramping legs, and the morning after soreness was worth it.

Guess what? During the season, that conditioning began to translate into close games. Then those close games began to turn into some victories because in the late third quarter and into the fourth quarter when the other team was wearing down, we were just beginning to sweat! Before too long, there was a confidence that began to emerge. We knew if we could hang with the opponent into the third quarter, we would wear them down! That season we won as many as we lost! Given our losing tradition - that was huge!

Beginning the following season we ran into the first of three consecutive classes that actually had some athletes. Given the improvement in talent and the commitment to conditioning, the pain turned into gain! That was the first of three straight County Championships. After that third championship season our school got swallowed up in a school consolidation. Had that not happened we would have likely won two more championships.

What does this have to do with suffering? We suffered through those agonizing practices because we had out hopes set on winning. Monday through Thursday wind sprints turned into Friday and Saturday wins.

That is what Paul is talking about in this verse. Having the hope of a better future gives you strength to endure the momentary suffering.

Did you ever suffer for years with a high mileage beater of a car because you had the hope of saving up and trading it in for a brand new Cadillac some day? When you got a little impatient or discouraged with that old junker you would drive by the dealership and see that shiny beauty sitting in the showroom. You would say to yourself, "Someday! Someday I'll trade this in for that!"

If you can relate to that experience you have what it takes to endure though painful periods of suffering. You walk through that trial or you put up with that pain knowing that someday you will get to trade in this aching body for an eternal one.

That is exactly what Jesus did, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

Are you suffering through a difficult trial? Are you a prisoner to pain? Has you misery index hit an all time high? Fix your eyes on Jesus Who understands suffering and can give you strength and courage. Fix your eyes on Jesus Who suffered so you can live in relationship with God and never suffer alone. Put your confidence in Jesus to lead you through temporary pain into eternal gain!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 19, 2009

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4
I am going to date myself, but I have a vivid image forever blazoned on my mind of an old Superman episode. I mean really old. Black and white TV old. George Reaves as Superman old. For the two or three of you who might know what I am talking about, there was an episode where Superman took a golf-ball sized lump of coal and squeezed it with his hands until he compressed it into a beautiful sparkling, crystal-clear diamond. I'm wondering why he only did that once, but anyway, that was impressive. And that's a lot of pressure!
It is also a good illustration of how God uses the pressures of life to mold us into something beautiful and valuable. If you can take the pressure, you can get the blessing of spiritual development. And it helps to take the pressure when you remember Who's Hands you are in!
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy," I Peter 6-8
Everyone is familiar with the refining process. Gold or silver ore is placed in a forge and tremendous heat is applied. The intense heat burns out the dross and purifies the metal. What you have after the refining process is called "precious metal". St. Peter compares that image to the effect that fiery trials and suffering can have on your spirit and character. No one enjoys the heat, but if you can endure the heat, you will emerge more pure and precious.
It helps to know that God has His hand on the thermostat.
How can you find joy in suffering? Understand the purpose, remember all the promises, anticipate the finished product and know the Person in control.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

August 18, 2009

"One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered the LORD, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." Job 1:6-8

I was never real good in math, but math is nice and tidy, very predictable. When you add one and one you always get two. Always. When you subtract 5 from 10 you get 5. Always. That is nice That is comfortable. That is so unlike life.

But somehow we take a mathematical approach to live. We think that if we do this good thing and combine it with that good thing we will get a good result. Maybe. Maybe not.

That is a huge part of the problem with suffering. It doesn't always add up. In the Bible some of the men who suffered the most lived the best. So here's the math: righteous living + faithful obedience = severe suffering. God's math is strange!
There weren't many who were more moral that Job. He was so righteous that God bragged on him to the Devil! Of all the people I want to impress, God is THE ONE! So what did Job's stellar resume get him? Deep sorrow and suffering. How does that add up?
David had a heart like God's. When God chose him to be King his life was constantly threatened by Saul the reigning king. He spent years running from Saul even though David was totally blameless. Several times he could have killed Saul and ended the period of exile, but he chose to honor Saul because Saul still occupied the throne. David suffered and suffered longer than he needed to because his heart was right and he chose to wait on God. How does that add up?
And then, of course, there was Jesus. He was sinless and remained sinless for one reason. So He could become sin for us and suffer our judgment. The very Son of God died a horrifying excruciating shameful death for one reason - He was the only One holy enough to do it! There is no worse suffering than death on a cross. God's best took our worst. How does that add up?
This brings us back to the problem that has no mathematical solution, a holy all powerful loving God Who could prevent all suffering doesn't. No one has ever been able to balance that equation. That has caused many to abandon faith or to choose not to believe.
What do you do when life doesn't add up?

What are you to believe when God subtracts from your comfort rather than adding to it?

Will you factor in God's goodness and love when the math doesn't seem to work?

Can you trust your problem to be His solution?

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17, 2009

No one likes to suffer. At least no well adjusted person enjoys suffering. No wonder when you consider the definition of suffering: "The bearing of pain, inconvenience, or loss; pain endured; distress, loss, or injury incurred; as, sufferings by pain or sorrow; sufferings by want or by wrongs. Being in pain or grief; having loss, injury, distress, etc."
This week I will be dealing with this long-standing problem of pain, "Why would a loving God allow suffering?"
Today I will give an overview and the break it down during the balance of the week. First, I want to share a precious verse of Scripture that any suffering person can cling to for hope: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them." Romans 8:28
Here are twenty reasons why God allows suffering in our world:
1) Suffering reveals what is really in our hearts.
2) Suffering breaks down our pride.
3) Suffering can deepen our desire for God.
4) Suffering can mature us.
5) Suffering can produce humility
6) Suffering may be a warning to prevent something potentially worse.
7) Suffering can jump-start our prayer life.
8) Suffering may cause a lost person to receive Christ.
9) Suffering may lead a Christian to confess sin.
10) Suffering can deepen our trust in God.
11) Suffering can prove the truth and reliability of Scripture.
12) Suffering can help us learn from and appreciate other Christians who were victorious in suffering.
13) Suffering can take our focus off of this world.
14) Suffering can teach us first hand that God is truly sufficient and trustworthy.
15) Suffering can connect us with other sufferers.
16) Suffering can create an opportunity for witness.
17) Suffering can lead a person into Christian ministry.
18) Suffering can cause us to appreciate our blessings.
19) Suffering can position our lives to bring glory to God.
20) Suffering, when properly handled, will result in rewards in heaven.
If you are in the midst of suffering. Cling to that verse and check over this list. Chances are some of these will resonate with you.
It helps to know that our pain has a purpose!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

August 16, 2009

A police officer pulled a driver aside and asked for his license and registration.

"What's wrong, officer," the driver asked. "I didn't go through any red lights, and I certainly wasn't speeding."

"No, you weren't," said the officer, "but I saw you waving your fist as you swerved around the lady driving in the left lane, and I further observed your flushed and angry face as you shouted at the driver of the Hummer who cut you off, and how you pounded your steering wheel when the traffic came to a stop near the bridge."

"Is that a crime, officer?"

"No, but when I saw the ‘Jesus loves you and so do I’ bumper sticker on the car, I figured this car had to be stolen."

Ouch that hurts! It is never fun to get caught being a hypocrite.

A priest was coming back to his rectory one evening in the dark when he was accosted by a robber who pulled a gun on him and demanded, "Your money or your life!"

As the priest reached his hand into his coat pocket, the robber saw his Roman collar and said: "I see you're a priest. Never mind, you can go."

The priest, surprised at this unexpected show of piety, tried to reciprocate by offering the robber a candy bar that he remembered was in his pocket.

The robber replied, "No thank you, Father. I don't eat candy during Lent."

What are we talking about? We are talking about hypocrisy. One of the most commonly leveled objections to the Christian faith is that “All Christians Are Hypocrites” Gross generalizations like “Christians are all hypocrites” are rarely true. In this case, it is very close. As long as there has been faith there has been hypocrisy. That doesn’t make it right, but it makes it real – and a real problem.

Today I want to confront this ugly issue of hypocrisy. I want to show what causes it, why it is so harmful, and what can be done about it.

Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 23.


A man, returning from a business trip, was met at the airport by his wife. They walked from the gate together and were standing waiting for the baggage to be unloaded. An extremely attractive stewardess walked by. Suddenly, the man came to life. Beaming, he said to the stewardess, "I hope we can fly together again, Miss Jones." His wife asked, "How come you knew the name of that stewardess?" The man replied smoothly, "Well dear, her name was posted up front in the plane, right under the names of the pilot and co-pilot." To which the wife replied, "Okay, so what were the names of the pilot and co-pilot?" BUSTED! The man’s hypocrisy was uncovered.

Hypocrisy can be illustrated by the way we clean house when company is coming - We shove our junk in the closet, stuff it under the bed, etc. where it can’t be seen. Out of sight it doesn’t exist at least to our guests. That is not a horrible way to clean house, but it is terrible way to deal with the spiritual junk in our lives. There is no value to hide our junk from people if God sees it. He is the
one we are to please.

Hypocrisy results from trying to hide our junk and keep it out of view so people won’t think we have junk. But bad things happen when we do that. First, we hide our junk from ourselves and don’t deal with it. Secondly, we have to keep people away from our junk room out of fear of being discovered. That can be a little hard on true relationships. Worst of all, we have to try to keep Jesus from our junk room because of all people, we don’t want Him to see our junk. So, we live guarded lives, never fully honest with ourselves or with others and not fully committed to God.

In these first 10 verses, Jesus points out the hypocrisy of the Religious Leaders of that day. In verse 5 He puts His finger on the heart of the problem, “Everything they do is done for men to see…”

The heart of hypocrisy is the desire to look good and be regarded as good without doing the hard work of becoming good. It is even worse than that because it takes what is supposed to bring glory to God and using it to glorify yourself.

“Hypocrisy” comes from a Greek word “hypokrisis” that referred to an actor playing a part. An actor pretends to be one thing when he is actually another. In the ancient theater the actors often played several characters each, so they would use masks. Whenever they needed to change characters they changed masks.

Are you wearing a mask today? What are you trying to hide?

Do you have a junk room in your heart? Is there some junk that you are hiding from God?
If you answered “yes” to any of those questions you are guilty of hypocrisy and it is only a matter of time until you are exposed.


Some of the harshest words that Jesus ever spoke were directed at the professional religious leaders. In this portion of Scripture we see Him condemning them:

Seven Times He Calls Them Hypocrites
Two Times He Calls Them Fools
Five Times He Calls Them Blind Guides
He Even Called Them A Bunch of Snakes

John Stott said this about hypocrisy: “Hypocrisy is hideous. What cancer is to the body, hypocrisy is to the church. It is a killing agent. Unfortunately, hypocrisy is also addictive. And even though Jesus reserved His most severe words of condemnation for the hypocrite, we still seem to prefer that lifestyle to truth and authenticity.”

Hypocrisy will seriously harm the witness of a local church.

Hypocrisy wears down the workers in a church.

What a deal there is of going to meetings and getting blessed, and then going away and living just the same, until sometimes we, who are constantly engaged in trying to bring people nearer the heart of God, go away so discouraged that our hearts are almost broken. - Catherine Booth. "

Hypocrisy harms the worship in a church.

Hypocrisy harms the fellowship in a church.

Mark Twain once said, “A cat that sits on a hot stove would sit on a hot stove again. But neither will he sit on a cold one.” Once you get burned by hypocrisy, you will have a hard time being vulnerable within fellowship.

Hypocrisy harms the mission of the church. We are supposed to make it easier for people to believe in God, not harder. Which is true of your life?


"Luke warmness toward God is hypocrisy at its worst. If I truly believe He’s supreme, I must treat Him as such I must"

True Faith - Matthew 15:8, Jesus said, 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’

In the chapter previous to this, Jesus had told the religious leaders that they should love God with all their heart and all their soul and all their mind……

Jesus says if you want to overcome hypocrisy, get your heart right!

And then He points to the evidence of a heart that is right – Vv. 11-12 – Humble Service.

True Focus – In Verses 25-28, Jesus tells us that we should focus on the inner man not the outer man……….

True Fruit – “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:22-25

You don’t have to fake it! You don’t have to be a phony. You can be free from hypocrisy. By the way, I want you to know that there is a difference between being a hypocrite and being inconsistent. Even when we are Spirit-filled and walking in obedience, our human weaknesses can cause us to be inconsistent. But we are not acting or pretending to be something we are not.

Do you have a junk room in your heart? Are you hiding some junk that you don’t want anyone to know about? Do you ever feel that if anyone found out the truth about you, you'd be finished? Do you go through life basically trying to convince others that you are something you're not—that you're cool when you know you're not, that you're confident or skillful or good-hearted when you know it's not so?

It began with mere barroom bravado; years later it got out of control. Werner "Jack" Genot wanted to be a hero. So, he concocted a story about serving with the Marines and being taken as a prisoner of war during a bloody Korean War battle.

Genot, now 71, is from the small Illinois town of Marengo, where he serves as an alderman. His story grew until the uniform he wore on special occasions became laden with fake medals he had ordered from a catalogue—a Bronze Star, a Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts. He would march in parades and talk to schoolchildren. He even got a special license plate reserved for wounded veterans by forging discharge papers.

However, a veteran's league eventually noticed a lack of records on file and numerous factual holes in Genot's military record. It began investigating his claims. For two years, Genot denied the accusations and excused his way around the questions. But he finally confessed his deception in an interview with a local newspaper, claiming that he couldn't stand the façade any longer.
"You can't imagine what I'm going through," he said. "I really didn't know how to shake this demon. But I went to bed with it every night, and I looked at it in the mirror every morning. I don't want to meet my Maker with this on my heart."

Why not come clean on that junk? Why not let God into that room and give Him your junk.

If you have been disillusioned by hypocrisy – look past men to see Christ.

If you struggle with your own tendency to hypocrisy – look past men to see Christ.

August 15, 2009

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Acts 1:8
Is there a more exciting Book in the New Testament than the Acts of the Apostles?
Why is it so exciting? Because it shows the Church at its best! It shows the potential of any group of believers who dare to get real with God. When even a small group of people empty themselves of sin and self-righteousness and allow God to fill them with His Spirit, amazing things can happen! Any church that unites to obey the Great Commission in the power of the Great Commandment will change its world!
Because the Church can be THAT good, hypocrisy is that BAD.
Here is the irony in this whole thing. Hypocrisy is when people who profess to be believers try to act godly. They strive to believe the right things and look the right way seeming to believe that godliness happens from the outside in. But they soon discover that being religious doesn't make you a Christian anymore than living in your garage will make you a car.
So in a very real way can say that hypocrisy is the Acts of the religious. Not a pretty picture. Acting doesn't cut it.
The REAL Acts had nothing to do with acting. This was the real deal. This was God living and loving through single-minded surrendered people. The REAL Acts had nothing to do with religion but had everything to do with relationship. The REAL Acts had nothing to do with self-righteousness and everything to do with Spirit-filled righteousness. The REAL Acts had nothing to do with their actions and everything to do with God acting through them.
Here's the bottom line with the hypocrisy issue - you can have acting OR you can have ACTS!

Friday, August 14, 2009

August 14, 2009

"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:34-40

This is an amazing encounter between a man who was trying to look good and a Man Who WAS good. This Pharisee soon discovered he was out of his league. His lame question which was intended to trap Jesus allowed Jesus to turn the spotlight on their hypocrisy.

The Pharisess had taken the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses and had expanded them to 632 rules and regulations. Now, thanks to them, instead of being guilty of breaking 10 rules they could be guilty of breaking them by the hundreds. Hypocrisy was elevated to a whole new level.

Jesus got to the very heart of the hypocrisy problem which is, well........the heart. He says the solution to hypocrisy is to fully engage the heart and the mind.

Loving God with all your heart and all your mind solves the basic issues that lead to hypocrisy - double-mindedness and a divided heart. And when you love God with all your heart He will give you love for others. When you love others with a godly love you don't feel pressure to impress them.

Believing that they could keep ALL the commandments led to the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. Jesus was trying to simplify it for them. They only had to focus on two things - one thing, really. Just love God with all your heart and live in that relationship and He will do the rest. He will be your righteousness. He will love through you. His Spirit will lead you in truth.

Jesus has the cure for hypocrisy. Jesus IS the cure for hypocrisy. He will cure you from religion and bring you into relationship.

Are you tired of trying to impress God? Worn out by being religious? Exhausted by trying to achieve self-righteousness? Stop lying to yourself and start loving God. It is not about anything you can do - its about what He has done!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

August 13, 2009

"Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.'But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:" 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" Matthew 15:1-9
I have to confess to a passionate love affair that has been happening in my life for a long time. I am madly in love with the local church. I have devoted my life to it. If I had a second life I would also devote that life. Healthy local churches are the hope of the world. If God is ever going to transform our world, it will happen through local churches. That is why I am still leading the charge in a local congregation after all these years.
However, true love never runs smoothly. The majority of heartbreaks I have experienced in my life have happened in the local church. I have seen it at its worst and grieved.
But, I have also seen it at its best and there is nothing like it! I have seen lives transformed through salvation, through being filled with the Spirit, and through miraculous healings and deliverance. When a church is unified and focused and Spirit-led, the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it.
What makes the difference?
Primarily, it is this issue of hypocrisy. That is why Jesus was so hard on the religious leaders of His day. He had a vision of what the Church would become and their attitudes and actions were destructive to that.
Jesus summarized the problem of hypocrisy this way, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."
That is the climate which breeds hypocrisy. Where rules and rituals are allowed to trump relationships, there is an unhealthy atmosphere of judgmentalism and a noticable lack of love. The church degenerates into an organization rather than a living, breathing organism. Playing the part without having the heart will kill you and harm the church where you belong. Saying the right sounding things without sincerely believing them confuses people and hinders true fellowship.
If healthy local churches are the hope of the world, as I believe. And if hypocrisy is an illness that infects a church and threatens its health. Then it is no wonder Jesus was so aggressive in attacking it. We should be, too.
Your local church is made up of people like you. If you want to improve the spiritual climate of your church stop giving lip service to your faith and give it life service. Surrender your heart to God and allow His Spirit to fill it. Seek Him passionately and serve Him humbly. When you do, suddenly relationships will be a priority and rules will become servants of love.
Hypocrisy is an issue of the heart. If you want to defeat hypocrisy, transplant your heart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

August 12, 2009

The great Zig Ziglar said, " A hypocrite is one who gripes and complains about all the sex, nudity and violence on his VCR."
While the technology may be a bit outdated, the point is not.
James tells us that "a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways."
A hypocrite is a person who says one thing but does another. It harms the faith and damages local churches. The Early Church was not exempt from this destructive behavior and God dealt with it severely. Here's the story:
"Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events." Acts 5:1-11
Well, that's one way to solve the hypocrisy problem. But I fear that if God killed all the hypocrites who populate the Church of Jesus Christ, we wouldn't have many Christians left.
In yesterday's post I made the point that Cain and Abel both wanted to please God but only Abel did it on God's terms while Cain tried to please God on his own terms. In short, he was disobedient.
The story of Aninas and Sapphira shows us another ugly facet of hypocrisy, trying to impress men with how spiritual you are.
As the Church in Jerusalem was exploding with growth, the needs were incredible. So, these committed, Spirit-filled believers were selling off their possessions and giving the proceeds to the Apostles to distribute to those in need. They gave willingly and they gave as they saw fit. There was no pressure or force place upon them. THAT is true faith!
Enter Ananias, who with his wife, sold a piece of property and decided to give a portion of the profit to the Church and tuck part of it away for themselves. There was nothing wrong with that. They could have kept the whole amount or they could have given the whole amount. These were free-will gifts.
Their hypocrisy developed when they decided to misrepresent their gift. When they brought it to the Apostles they claimed that they were giving the entire amount of their sale. Why would they do that?
Only one reason. They wanted to look more generous than they were. They wanted the Apostles to praise them and shine the spotlight on them. They wanted the other believers to admire them. Not good.
In their desire for praise and attention, they succumbed to the temptation of being man-pleasers rather than God-pleasers.
It is always bad to lie. Lying to the Holy Spirit can be fatal. Ananias and Sapphira are living (er - dying) proof of that. While hypocrisy will not kill you on the spot, as it did them, it certainly kills your spirit, kills your witness and damages the health of your church. It is highly destructive.
Being respected and admired by men is a strong desire in the human spirit. Often it is even stronger than the desire to please God. That is the double-mindedness that James refers to that leads to unstable behavior.
Will you take a moment and ask God to search your spirit to see if your desire to please man is stronger than it should be? Will you commit to being single-minded in your pursuit of God?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 11, 2009

"By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead." Hebrews 11:4
Here's what occurred to me this morning as I was meditating about this topic of hypocrisy - faith and hypocrisy are two sides of the same coin.
How does that hit you?
Where did I get that idea? From thinking about Cain and Abel. Follow me on this line of thinking, but first let's define trms.
The word hypocrisy comes from the Greek ὑπόκρισις (hypokrisis), which means "play-acting", "acting out", "feigning" or "dissembling". The word hypocrite is from the Greek word ὑποκρίτης (hypokrites), the agentive noun associated with υποκρίνομαι (hypokrinomai), i.e. "I play a part."
So, hypocrisy is "acting" like you have something that you don't or pretending to be someone you aren't. Actors in those days often wore masks to better portray their character or if an actor was playing several characters he would do so by changing masks.
But faith is also "acting out" ("Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see") Faith is behaving according to a standard to which you have not yet attained. So hypocrisy acts out and faith acts out, why is one honored and the other despised?
Both faith and hypocrisy derive from a desire to please God and both show a desire to regain a perfection that we have lost. So why is one honored and the other despised?
Faith grows out of a genuine relationship with God through Christ. Hypocrisy arises from religion and is an attempt to please God with our own efforts.
Abel is pointed to as the father of faith while Cain is the originator of religion. Abel pleased God but Cain didn't. Both wanted to please God but only one did.
Faith acts out what God has given but has not yet been seen in a desire to please God. Hypocrisy acts out of man's pride and wisdom in the belief he can please God.
Faith desires to impress the world with the power of God. Hyposcrisy wants to impress God with the power of man.
Faith springs out of the life of relationship with Christ. Hypocrisy crawls out of the dead works of religious performance and pretence.
Faith brings life while hypocrisy kills.
Faith and hypocrisy are two sides of the same coin. There is a Cain side and an Abel side. One side of the coin is genuine and the other side is counterfeit - and only God can flip the coin.
What say ye?

Monday, August 10, 2009

August 10, 2009

"How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Matthew 7:4-5
One of the biggest objections given to justify non-involvement in church is, "There are too many hypocrites in church."
Unfortunately, that may be true.
I read about a preacher who when he invited a man to church was given this excuse, "Preacher, I would come to church but there are too many hypocrites there already."
The preacher was undaunted, replying, "Well, you could come and sit in church with a few hypocrites or you could go to hell with all of them."
However, the same people would sit at FedEx Field watching the Redskins even though there are hypocrites at the game. Or they crown into Lane Stadium or Scott Stadium to cheer for their teams without concern for how many hypocrites might be seated with them.
They don't hesitate to take money when it is given to them despite the fact that there are millions of phony bills in circulation.
This week I will be dealing with this issue of hypocrisy. Sunday I will be preaching about it. It is deadly, It is prevalent, and it hard to overcome.
Jesus hated hypocrisy when He was here. He confronted it wherever he saw and ruthlessly condemned it.
In His Sermon on the Mount, from which these verses are taken, Jesus identified the two most damaging aspects of hypocrisy - condemning sin in others while condoning it in ourselves. Jesus hated those attitudes. They are doubly destructive.
Jesus also gives us some insight into how to deal with hypocrisy in our lives, deal with the sin in our lives. "Take the two-by-four out of your eye before you get concerned over the splinter in your brother's eye."
The hardest hypocrite to live with is yourself. If you really are bothered by hypocrites and if you really want to be something about it, start with yourself. Ask God to reveal it in you and remove it from you. Stop worrying about "those hypocrites" and eliminate "this one". The hypocrisy that bothers me the most is that which dwells in me.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

August 9, 2009

A couple from northern Minnesota decided to go to Florida for a long weekend to thaw out during one particularly icy winter. Because they both had jobs, they had difficulty coordinating their travel schedules. It was decided that the husband would fly to Florida on Thursday, and his wife would follow the next day. Upon arriving as planned, the husband checked into the motel. He decided to open his laptop and send his wife an e-mail back home. However, he accidentally left off one letter in her address, and sent the e-mail without realizing the error. In Houston, a widow just returning from her husband’s funeral. He had been a pastor for many years who had been called home to glory. The widow checked her e-mail, expecting messages from relatives and friends. Upon reading the first message, she fainted and fell to the floor. The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read: TO: My loving wife FROM: Your departed husband SUBJECT: I’ve arrived! MESSAGE: I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was. P.S. Sure is hot down here.

Hell is a subject that offends some people and makes others uncomfortable. What do we tend to do when we are uncomfortable with something? We laugh at it, right?

If someone challenges you with “A Loving God Wouldn’t Send People to Hell”, take heart! It indicates that they have embraced two crucial truths: they believe God is loving and they believe in hell!

A poll done by The Minneapolis Star Tribune a few years ago found that 65% of the people in Minnesota believed in hell. That is a pretty high number. Only 15%, however, said they knew someone who would be a sure bet to go there, and only 3% felt that they themselves deserved to end up in hell. In other words, most folks accept hell as a reality, they just don’t see it as a danger.

So, should we see Hell as a danger? Would a loving God really send people to hell?”

To answer this question you need to understand God’s love and you need to understand hell. Let me see if I can help.


"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:1-9

Two Sides of God’s Love: MERCY < > JUSTICE

Our text today tells us that God’s love is real because He chose to extend mercy to us when we deserved justice. His choice to extend mercy made it possible for each of us to choose mercy and avoid the justice that would send us to HELL.

Because God is holy He demands justice for sin. But because He is a loving Father, He desires to show mercy toward those who sin. How can a holy God have a relationship with a fallen person? He can’t compromise His holiness but love needs an object so it can be expressed. What is the answer? Jesus was the answer! He was God in the flesh of a man. Born of a virgin so He could be sinless and living in the Spirit so He could remain sinless. That allowed Him to take on the sins of the world and provide us a way to deal with our sin and have access to the Father.

A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death. "But I don’t ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy." "But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied. "Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for." "Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman’s son.

God’s love is real. He desires to be merciful but will execute justice when His holiness demands it. God would have been overjoyed if Hell had ended up vacant.


Peter Marshall, the great 20th Century preacher once said, “Proof that hell is real is that Jesus came to earth to save us from it.”

Bill Hybels described what Hell might feel like: “The bottomless pit…conjures up dreamlike feelings of falling away -- falling, falling, falling. You’ve all had dreams like that; where when you woke your heart was beating because you were falling. Picture in your mind hanging over a precipice --- and God is hanging onto you --- and you’re hanging onto him. “And you decide you don’t need him anymore. So you let go. But the moment you let go you know you made a mistake. You’re falling, and every moment you fall further and further away from the only source of help and truth and love --- and you realize you made a mistake and you can’t get back up --- and you fall further and faster and further and faster into spiritual oblivion --- and you know you’re going the wrong direction --- and you’d give anything to go back, but you can’t. And you fall, and you fall, and you fall, and you fall … “How long? Forever. And all the while you’re falling you’re saying, ‘I’m further now; I’m further. I’m further from the only source of hope, truth, and love.’ “In hell there is never the bliss of annihilation. You’d give anything for annihilation, but it’s unavailable --- only the conscious continuation of emotional anguish, physical anguish, relational anguish, and spiritual anguish … forever.”

"Cardiologist Dr. Rawlings, a devout atheist, "considered all religion ’hocus-pocus’ and death nothing more than a painless extinction." But something happened in 1977 that brought a dramatic change in the life of Dr. Rawlings! He was resuscitating a man, terrified and screaming. "Each time he regained heartbeat and respiration, the patient screamed, ’I am in hell!’ He was terrified and pleaded with me to help him. I was scared to death...Then I noticed a genuinely alarmed look on his face. He had a terrified look, worse than the expression seen in death! This patient had a grotesque grimace expressing sheer horror! His pupils were dilated, and he was perspiring and trembling--he looked as if his hair was ’on end.’ Then still another strange thing happened. He said, ’Don’t you understand? I am in hell...Don’t let me go back to hell!’...the man was serious, and it finally occurred to me that he was indeed in trouble. He was in a panic like I had never seen before." Dr. Rawlings said no one who could have heard his screams and saw the look of terror on his face could doubt for a single minute that he was actually in a place called hell! Dr. Rawlings concludes, "Just listening to these patients has changed my life. There is a life after death, and if I don’t know where I’m going, it is not safe to die."
God knows that Hell is real and He has done everything that He can do to keep people from going there.

Jesus knows Hell is real because the Bible indicates that He went there after He died for the sins of the world.

It may or may not surprise you to know that the person in the bible who spoke the most often (and in the most graphic terms) about hell, was not one of the fiery Old-Testament prophets, or John the author of Revelation, but Jesus himself. 12 times in the gospels Jesus talks in explicit terms about hell. (More than any other single Bible person).

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46

I have shared several rather convincing pieces of evidence to show the terrible reality of Hell. You don’t want to go there! You shouldn’t want anyone to go there! You must do everything in your power to make sure you don’t go there or anyone that you care about.


Ted Turner, founder of Turner Broadcasting (TBS,TNT,CNN) blasted the Christian faith at a speech to the National Press Club. "Remember, heaven is going to be perfect. And I don’t really want to be there... Those of us that go to hell, which will be most of us in this room, most journalists are certainly going there... (Laughter). but, when we get there we’ll have a chance to make things better because hell is supposed to be a mess. And heaven is perfect. Who want to go to a place that is perfect? Boring, boring." (Laughter). Also in late 1989, Turner told Dallas Morning News "Christianity is a religion for losers." Christ died on the cross, but Mr. Turner said He shouldn’t have bothered. "I don’t want anybody dying for me. I’ve had a few drinks and a few girlfriends and if that’s gonna put me in hell, then so be it."

I guess he prefers justice over mercy.

I have been with Christians when they died and I once stood by the bed-side of a man who knew he was dying and refused mercy. Trust me, there is a world of difference!

I want you to imagine that you have a friend who is standing on the edge of what looks like a swimming pool on a blistering hot August day. You happen along on the way to your swimming pool and see your friend getting ready to dive into that pool. You know that the pool he is about to dive into is filled with sulfuric acid. He is crouched and ready to lunge. He is mere seconds away from a horrible death.

What would you do?

You could say, “Wait! I’ll join you!”

You could say, that’s not my problem!

You could say, what a stupid thing to do! If he jumps in there he deserves it!

You could say, I sure am glad I have a safe pool to swim in!

You should say – NO! STOP!

I’m sure that is what you would do!

So why are you not pointing people who you know are standing on the road to Hell away from the justice of God and toward His mercy?

Would A Loving God Send People To Hell?

No – HE SAID, “STOP! TAKE MY MERCY!”The Bigger Question This Morning Is – Will You Let People You Love Go To Hell?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

August 8, 2009

"How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile your name forever? Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!" Psalms 74:10-11
There are a number of reasons why the Psalms are among the most revered and beloved of the Sacred Writings. Chief among those is the fact that they are so honest. The Psalmist struggled with the same emotions, frustrations and doubts as we do. But, unlike us sometimes, he was honest about them.
In my reading this morning I was in Psalms 74-76. Psalm 74 captured me today because in it he is struggling with the silence of God. He was not seeing God work as He had worked in former days. Knowing that God could come against their enemies and God could defend their cause, he couldn't understand why God was not moving.
There was no problem recounting the many deeds and exploits of God in times past. He lists them and longingly wishes to see God manifest His power and glory again.
Have you ever been there? Is that where you find yourself now?
What do we do when we don't see God move? How are we to behave? What are we to believe?
First, I would state this confidently, God is always doing more than what we know in ways that we do not see. He is a powerful, holy God Who cannot be denied. He cannot be idle. Situations and circumstances change whenever He shows up. As Charles Spurgeon once said, "When I can't see God's hand, I can trust His heart." Be sure that God is working even when you are seeing visible evidence.
Second, I have found that when God is not obviously working FOR you, He is certainly working IN. In the final analysis, which really matters most? Is it more important for God to change your circumstances or is it more important that He changes you?
Third, what develops faith better, seeing God work wonders or believing in Him when you don't see Him working? The Children of Israel saw God move regularly on their behalf but did they develop great faith? Faith is the "substance of things hoped for the evidence of things NOT SEEN."
Finally, would you rather know God's hand or would you rather know His heart? In Psalm 103:7 there is an interesting statement, "He made His ways known to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel." Would you rather know what God can do, or would you rather know Who God is?
Don't let your faith be defined by what you see and feel, let it be shaped by what you know - of God, His Word, His nature, and His amazing grace!

Friday, August 7, 2009

August 7, 2009

"Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you?" Psalm 71:19
Indeed, who is like our God?
In my Bible reading I am in the Psalms for the O.T. portion and in Romans for the N.T. part. That is some good reading!
But, as I was reading this morning I kept coming back to verse 19 of the 71st Psalm. Sitting here at my desk and looking out at a clear blue cloudless sky, I am blessed by the knowledge that His righteousness reaches to the sky - and beyond! Even the vast universe is inadequate to contain His righteousness.
For someone who often gets it wrong it is comforting to remember His righteousness. He is always right! He can always show me the right way! He can even redeem the wrong I do and bring good from it!
For someone who has had wrong things happen to him, it is a blessing to know that his righteousness can make wrong things right.
In a world where so much seems to be wrong and where evil appears to be exponentially expanding, it is reassuring to know that His goodness is more powerful than all the badness that surrounds us. His rightness will have the last word in a world of wrong.
I want to take a personal privilege to testify to one of the right things God has done in my life. Today is the 34th birthday of my oldest son, Matthew. He is a great blessing to me.
Growing up without a dad, I wanted to have a son that I could be a father to. For awhile it looked like that might not happen. But they were wrong and God was right. He made a way for us to adopt a brand new baby boy.
He was born on August 7, 1975 and we brought him home on August 10. We named him Matthew, which means "gift from God". Indeed he was - and is! For 34 years now he has been a source of great joy and pride. I couldn't have asked for a better son. God did it right!
Matthew deserved a better dad, but for the things I did right, I give glory to the God whose righteousness "reaches to the sky". For the things I did wrong, His grace and power have made them right. How did he do that? Today, Matt is a great dad to his four girls and his son. He is the dad I wished I would have been. I am sure he learned from the mistakes I made. He will raise his son, to be an even better man.
Matt lives in the Minneapolis area and I don't get to see him nearly enough, but through the miracle of electronics, we stay close. He is a good husband and a successful business man. He's doing a lot of things right!
Matthew James Snyder, I bless you on your 34th birthday! I love you very much! And I bless the God, who in His great rightness, gave you to me!